By Pam Slater-Price
County SupervisorFor decades California’s many governments have had an uncooperative agreement with Mother Nature. They have not been able to figure out the puzzle of our beaches. Over time, beach sand retention and replenishment has become the Rubik’s Cube of preservation efforts.
Years of interference and neglect has hurt our coast. A lack of understanding, false starts, and even faulty science has gotten us to where we are today. It doesn’t mean we didn’t try to do it right. California just didn’t know how.
Sand that once flowed freely to replenish all our county’s beaches, bottlenecks at points along the coast and leaves many beaches sand-starved. Since the 1970s, governments constructed debris basins to collect sediments, installed breakwaters and jetties which trapped sand, built sea walls that cut off sand supply for our eroding bluffs, and concreted river channels preventing sand flow to the beach. For decades, sand mining and development impeded or prevented the flow of sand.
In fact, waterways that bring nourishing sand to the beach were disrupted, too.
What man has caused, man must now correct.
It is imperative that local governments work cooperatively to adopt the SANDAG beach sand replacement plan, tailored to our region. And we must put in place the latest technology to keep that sand on the beach. Securing our fair share of federal funding should be a regional priority. Since East Coast states are relentless in their quest for beach funds, we must work harder in Washington D.C.. We must also purchase a dredge with Proposition 84 money. In time, we might need to implement a phased retreat to undo the mistakes of the past.
As late as 2005 the Army Corps of Engineers said their optimal plan is beach nourishment with notch fills. Good plan, but it’s clear that local governments must think well beyond that effort or the region will continue to play catch-up to maintain our beaches.
Four million tourists use our beaches annually. La Jolla features one of the finest, most popular beaches in the world. Weather and beaches are the region’s number one draw. I am not a fan of increased taxes. However, following the lead of the city of Encinitas, perhaps hotel room taxes should be raised on those four million visitors. A percentage should be directed to beach sand replenishment and retention.
Clearly, those who ignore the past, are condemned to repeat it. So we must go directly to the source to stop erosion; say no to coastal projects that will deplete sand; make sand retention a priority; and, increase fines for over-mining of sand.
Through hard work this region can reverse the damage decades of interference, neglect and missteps have caused along our coast. But it will take a concerted effort to get it done. The die was cast long ago. Time to set things straight.